It seems to be the never-ending story in the UFC’s bantamweight division. Fighter blazes his way up the rankings, with quality wins over quality opponents; shows he has every right to take on the champion in a bid to win their own piece of UFC gold—and stamp their names in the MMA history books along the way. And then they just sit there, waiting and watching while Urijah Faber or Dominick Cruz fights for the title again.
Despite Cruz not having competed since Barack Obama was in office, he’s the man top contender Petr Yan is watching get yet another bid to win the bantamweight belt. This after Cejudo’s plans to take on former featherweight champion Jose Aldo fell apart—due to travel and visa problems amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For men like Yan, Cory Sandhagen, and Aljamain Sterling, it seems they just can’t find their way into the UFC’s plans. And at this point it sounds like Yan is getting tired of it all.
He’s not blaming Cejudo for this mess, though, Yan says he knows the champ is “playing his game.” For him it’s all about the decisions being made upstairs.
“To be honest, moments like this in UFC kind of upset me,” Yan admitted. “[Dominick Cruz] didn’t fight for three years and now he’s getting a title shot? It kind of upsets me and it’s a big hit for UFC reputation, in my opinion.”
Yan even theorized that in his case it could be that the UFC doesn’t want to have two Russian champions. And if he were American that this might be a much different story. That, of course, doesn’t really account for why Jose Aldo was on deck for his own title shot, or why fighters like Sandhagen and Sterling are getting left behind as well. For Yan, though, it sounds like he’s just grasping for any sensible explanation.
“I don’t think that [UFC’s] main goal,” Yan said, of his own idea that they might be avoiding him because he’s Russian, “but to me it’s kind of unclear why they gave it to Cruz. I don’t think, in my opinion, he’s going to bring a lot of pay-per-views buys. I don’t know why, it’s kind of a difficult question for me.”
“I think there are more active and deserving fighters that could fight for the belt and I don’t understand why they’d give it to a guy that’s been so inactive for so long.”
For the moment, at least, the re-re-booted UFC 249 fight card is set to take place on May 9th in parts unknown. Reports were that the event would be headlined by a trio of title fights, including an interim lightweight title bout between Tony Ferguson & Justin Gaethje, as well as a women’s featherweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer. All that to go alongside the bantamweight title bout between Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz.
However, with Nunes recently reporting that she was off the card, and with no location finalized it’s still unclear exactly what, if any UFC bouts will actually occur on the day.